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Pastor Glenn McDonald: Behind the Mask


In The Princess Bride, Westley, the humble Farm Boy, returns to reclaim Buttercup, his true love.


But he no longer looks like Farm Boy.


He is wearing a black mask and introduces himself as the Dread Pirate Roberts. In short order, however, we learn that Westley is not the real Dread Pirate Roberts. He’s only impersonating him.


Roberts, in fact, had confided in Westley, “My name is Ryan. I inherited the ship from the previous Dread Pirate Roberts, just as you will inherit it from me. The man I inherited it from is not the real Dread Pirate Roberts, either. His name was Cummerbund.”


So who’s the real Dread Pirate Roberts?


In 1959, America’s “last surviving Civil War veteran,” Walter Williams, died. Tens of thousands attended a funeral parade in his honor and celebrated his life during an official week of mourning. A zealous investigative journalist, however, discovered that Williams had been only five years old when the Civil War began. He had never gotten so much as a sniff of combat.


The journalist furthermore learned that Williams had inherited his title of honor from another pretender named John Salling. Shockingly, the previous 10 “last surviving Civil War veterans” all turned out to be phonies, too.


So who was the real last surviving veteran?


Most of us would conclude that clinging to a false identity or claim to fame is a pretty sad way to go through life.


But then, most of us do that all the time. We even do an effective job of hiding that disturbing truth from ourselves.


This is the problem of the False Self. I don’t want you to see who I really am. Allowing you to glimpse my pathetic problems and the sources of my deepest shame – well, that feels more terrifying than a walk through the Fire Swamp and facing the Rodents of Unusual Size.


So I put on a bold mask to hide my hesitancy. Or an aggressive mask to cover my fear. Or a calm mask to divert attention from the fact that on the inside I’m a nervous wreck.


Psychologists speak of the Crisis of Congruence. That’s the distance between the Real Me that I am hoping to hide and the Phony Me that I hope you will buy.


The greater the distance between my actual self and the mask I am wearing, the more exhausting it becomes to keep the mask in place – and the more my loved ones tend to suffer when I come home, wearily toss my mask aside, and hit them with a full dose of the Insecure and Hurting Me that’s been dying to see the light of day.


What can we do?


We can unmask ourselves.


That begins with embracing what is unquestionably one of the boldest prayers in all of Scripture: “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts. And see if there is any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24)


Praying such a prayer, and really meaning it, takes courage. That’s because all of us know that we are hiding a truckload of “grievous ways” from the watching world.


And God, if given permission to do a thorough search of the premises of our hearts and minds, will definitely point them out to us.


The scariest truth, of course, is that God already knows all our secrets. But here’s something else that is true: Even though he knows everything there is to know about us, God still treasures us.


So stop masquerading as the Dread Pirate You.


If we have given ourselves to Jesus, the One who has died for all of our secrets, we can stand in his presence – and not feel afraid.

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